Dubai – MENA Herald: This year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is shining a light on the burgeoning wellness tourism sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which has been identified as the second fastest growing market in the world for spas after Sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the 2014 Global Spa and Wellness Economy Monitor report by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the value of wellness trips across MENA has reached US$7.3 billion, with health-focused tourists sending 130% more than regular travellers. To capitalise on opportunities, ATM’s new Wellness & Spa Lounge will provide up to 25 exhibitors representing some of the world’s most recognised health and wellness hospitality destinations with an ideal platform from which to target this high profile, high spend market segment.
“In our research we found that across all markets, wellness tourism is exceptionally popular. This is confirmed by the report, which shows over a 9% year-on-year growth forecasted for the next two years, which is a staggering 50% faster than overall global tourism,” said Nadege Noblet-Segers, Exhibition Manager, Arabian Travel Market, which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre, on 25-28 April 2016.
“This prompted us to design a dedicated space with seminar sessions focused exclusively on industry topics. ATM Wellness & Spa Lounge will be working in association with Spafinder Wellness 365™, the leading consumer resource for wellness travel and the largest marketing and incentives company for the wellness industry, to offer suppliers an exclusive and convenient platform to meet new contacts and conduct business,” she added.
“There are more than 1,000 spas in the Middle East region and the UAE has more than 500 spas divided between hotel spas, medical spas and stand-alone establishments, so there is huge potential for the spa business,” said Sayed Salem, Spa Manager, The Palace Downtown Dubai, who recently took part in the ATM Wellness & Spa Roundtable in Dubai. “We have seen a significant shift among consumers for wellness and preventative health. They are expecting a more proactive approach from the spa in addressing primary health concerns. Guests are willing to pay for quality, however, wellness guests will continue to seek out discounts over the next 12 months, therefore we should deliver new and innovative promotions and other ways to ensure guests will return.”

“Dubai has most of the best therapeutic facilities in the world and that the expertise in the spa sector has matured and we are drawing experts in even more,” added Paul Hawco, Director of Talise Spa Operations, Talise Wellness, Jumeirah Group, who also took part in the ATM Wellness & Spa Roundtable. “We are poised to become more of a spa destination and related conferences are setting us up for this.”
Looking at specific destinations in the region, the UAE’s spa industry is forecast to achieve revenues of US$1.49 billion by the end of 2015, rising to US$2.26 billion by 2017, making it one of the most valuable tourism-related industries in the Middle East. According to the GWI report, the UAE will top spa growth in the region by 2017, more than doubling current business volume with 17.9% annual growth since 2012.

The GWI report also highlights total spa and wellness revenues for 2014 for more key destinations including Saudi Arabia US$223 million; Oman US$207 million – which is set to experience an annual growth rate for overall sector tourism of 9.3% from 2012 to 2017; Qatar US$156.27 million; and Bahrain, US$181 million.

“Destinations that offer truly innovative wellbeing experiences will be the success stories of tomorrow, and are best positioned to be a more competitive and profitable future product,” commented John Bevan, Chief Operating Officer, Spafinder Wellness, Inc.

Designed to be a hub for wellness and spa professionals, the lounge will host two full days of pre-scheduled appointments with 30 high caliber Middle Eastern buyers and up to 25 international wellness suppliers.
Regular ATM exhibitor Carlsbad Plaza Spa & Wellness Hotel will be joined by a host of first-time exhibitors including Groupe Lucien Barrière, Casale Panayiotis Traditional Village, Verdura Resort, CCR Hotels & Spa, Swiss Diamond Hotel, Divani Collection Hotels, HL Le Mirador International, Chenot Group, Velaa Private Island Maldives, LifeClass Hotels & Spa, Sianji Wellbeing Resort and Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda.
A wellness seminar, which will take place in the Showcase Theatre, is scheduled for Wednesday 27 April under the theme Wellbeing Hospitality – Competitive Concepts for Hospitality and Leisure Assets.
Chaired by Laszlo Puczko, Group Managing Director, Resources for Leisure Assets, the session will analyse the importance of developing a wellness-focused strategy interconnected to wellbeing attractions and services that are vital when creating a holistic and unique hospitality experience.
The spa and wellness theme is only a part of a packed agenda being developed for ATM 2016. The main theme is mid-market travel, but other highlights include, technology, halal tourism, business travel, technology, responsible tourism, shopping, aviation, culture and heritage, and adventure travel.
ATM 2016 will build on the success of this year’s edition with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements earlier this year. ATM 2015 witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 15% to over 26,000, with exhibiting companies increasing by 5% to 2,873. Business deals worth more than US$2.5 billion were signed over the four days.